Expect a slow return: Economic Task Force chair





Buy local, shop local

Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative

Chatham-Kent’s businesses sector can expect a slow return to normal when the economy fully opens up post-COVID-19.

“I don’t think people are talking about that enough,” said Rocky Gaudrault, co-chair of the Economic Recovery Task Force. “It won’t be an immediate 10 people (employees) were out, now 10 people are back in. It’ll maybe be 10 were out and now two, three or four come back in (from lay off). Then we have to work our way gradually from there.”

On Tuesday Gaudrault, CEO, Junctura Inc., gave an update on the task force’s work to the municipality’s Community Development Advisory Committee.

Gaudrault said it is likely individuals will see an extended EI period for a lot of staff.

West Kent Coun. Melissa Harrigan who sits on the committee said this could be a good opportunity for entrepreneurs.

“Now we have a community of people who are basically laid off right or have been impacted and the time for really thinking about entrepreneurial opportunities to kind of jump into business is also right now,” she said, adding that she would like to see more provincial programs coming up to support entrepreneurs.

It just so happened that on Wednesday, Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages, announced that a total of $252.4 million would be available for southern Ontario businesses.

Businesses that are unable to access other existing measures can apply for support through FedDev Ontario which will work with key partners such as the Community Futures Development Corporations across the region to help southern Ontario businesses during these times.

CFDC Chatham-Kent officials said they are still confirming how much of the funds will trickle down into the community and how that money will be spent.

Buy local, shop local

The task force group encompasses 200 entrepreneurs representing around 100 businesses.

Gaudrault said they do not have an estimate as to how many employees it represents “but to say that it’s a significant amount is probably an understatement as far as the endeavours that are being put forth by this group.”

Gaudrault said right now the task force is all “thriving not just surviving.” A report will be sent to council at its May 25 meeting outlining the needs and wants of the business sector and recommendations for spending, saving, cutting and collaborating.

However, the biggest topic he expects to come out of the report is finding a way to unify Chatham-Kent.

Gaudrault said the best way to move forward is to look at what other sectors in different municipalities are doing to survive, then “collaborate internally as much as possible.”

Right now he is seeing various Chatham-Kent business sectors joining forces to address their immediate needs with available responses. A small win with big consequences.

“Any kind of small wins right now are going to be the big things for the immediate future for these people,” he said. “What’s come about right now is we have our own flavour that’s starting to develop. The whole goal for us to thrive is to have our own secret sauce.”

Chatham-Kent Economic Development department will be launching a shop local campaign in the coming weeks, said director Stuart McFadden.

“As businesses open up every dollar that we’re spending inside of our community is supporting our community,” he said.

As part of the effort to help businesses, McFadden is hoping to present council with a report recommending the reallocation of dollars from EcDev’s base budget toward Digital Main Street – a program launched in August with $85,000 of provincial funding to help local businesses develop an online presence.

With the funding part of the program over, McFadden is hoping to continue the efforts, citing COVID-19 as a prime example of why an online presence is important.

“Some businesses can still sell and stay in the game because of their online presence during COVID-19,” he said. “It is truly a recovery play, if you want to call it that, making sure that businesses are strong online.”






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